by Belle Waring on June 2, 2016

Epic Rap Battles of History can be uneven but is, at times, amazing. My favorite is MLK vs. Gandhi with Key and Peele. Eastern philosophers vs. western philosophers is awesome– it deviates from the usual “who won, who’s next” close, ending instead with “what is winning?” Ten points to Ravenclaw. And “you don’t want to stand in the path of Laozi today; move, bitch, get out the way” is inspired. However, some effort should have been made to pronounce the Chinese philosophers’ names. Any effort, smdh. Finally, the philosophers on each side end up turning on one another, exactly as Schopenhauer would have it:

On the other hand, hardly has any system of philosophy come into the world when it has already begun to contemplate the destruction of all its brothers, like an Asiatic sultan when he ascends to the throne. For just as there can be only one queen in a beehive, so can only one philosophy be the order of the day. Thus systems are by nature as unsociable as spiders, each of which sits alone in its web and sees how many flies will allow themselves to be caught therein, but approaches another spider merely in order to fight with it. Thus whereas the works of poets pasture peacefully side by side, those of philosophy are born beasts of prey, and even in their destructive impulse are like scorpions, spiders, and the larvae of some insects and are turned primarily against their own species. They appear in the world like men clad in armour from the seed of the dragon’s teeth of Jason’s and til now have, like these, mutually exterminated each other. This struggle has already lasted for more than two thousand years; will there ever result from it a final victory and lasting peace?

Aaaaaanyway my actual plan was to post this Epic Rap Battle of History: Thomas Jefferson vs. Frederick Douglass.

What to read about Rousseau

by Chris Bertram on June 2, 2016

I was interviewed by Nigel Warburton for Five Books about Rousseau, [so here are my thoughts](, as edited from audio of our conversation, and so reasonably spontaneous. Of course, the real starting-point should be the man himself.

My department held our first ceremony for graduating philosophy Majors this spring, and my chair kindly asked me to speak at it (immediately after 2 graduating seniors, whose speeches were, I suppose not surprisingly, on a fairly similar theme to my own). I kept it short (ish), and thought I’d post the text from which I talked here. I’m posting partly because it was fun, but partly as a resource for others, who are welcome to use whatever they like, without attribution, except for the joke about my office (I know 2 political philosophers whose offices are reputed to be similar to mine — they can use the joke).

Here it is:

First, we want to congratulate you all on graduating. It’s a time for you to enjoy, and celebrate, though we hope you feel at least some sadness at leaving the rhythm of college life, and the thrill of going to class every day knowing that you’ll encounter, as one of my non-major students put it, ideas that you didn’t know were there to be thought.

Second, we want to thank the parents here for encouraging, or tolerating, or merely not having the strength of character to stop, your children in their choice of major. And, in many cases, you have been for paying for most or all of it. We know that your children are entering a labor market that is soft at best, much worse than the labor market we entered at the same age, and that majoring in Philosophy may have seemed like a risk. I’m going to explain why it was less of a risk than you might have thought.

Most of us research and teach philosophy because we love it – as one student, trying to get the balance right between philosophy and sociology, put it: “Philosophy is just so much more fun; you get to think almost all the time that you are working, rather than only about 20% of the time”. We’re excited about mapping out conceptual space, making very fine grained distinctions, looking at arguments and seeing where they go wrong, and figuring out how to repair them. We revel in abstraction. And we hope we have communicate some of that enthusiasm, and fostered it, and the skills needed to fulfill it, in you.

But that’s not all.

Last year Governor Walker and our legislature added to the mission of the UW that it should “meet the state’s workforce needs”. Some people on the campus were not enthused about this addition. But as a professor loyal to the College of Letters and Science, and especially as a professor who wants to see Philosophy thrive, I was thrilled. Speaking simply for myself, if studying philosophy did not contribute to society, it should be like sports, a leisure activity that people don’t get paid for and that no sane person would think the government should be subsidizing. I mean, nobody, surely, would think that the government should be using tax revenues to fund high school football or hockey teams, or to subsidize building sports stadia, right?

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